Saturday, February 20, 2016

Book #6

This is going a bit better than I expected. I can finish a book about every 3-4 days. It does mean, to read the whole series, I need to read a book a week, but that seems a reasonable goal. I finished book 6 last week.

It's the return of Granny (Esme) Weatherwax and introduces Nanny Og and Magrat. (I kept reading her name as "Margrat". It was just easier, eventually, to acknowledge I don't see her name as written, but, right now, she doesn't seem to mind.)

I think this is the first book where many threads of a story are introduced, left dangling, and then tied up somewhat neatly at the end, with the thought that some of the characters introduced will be back in later books. This is a rollicking good read and stands alone as a story in and of itself. You don't need to have read "Equal Rites" to get a feel for who Granny is. She's softer in this book. I still felt she was a bit of a bully, but the storming into lives and simply demanding people do what she thinks should be done, has been softened. She's got two other witches acting as foils and, although they aren't the fierce character she is, they are written as having good and nobel and right answers to the problems posed in the book.

The story, around which all the other threads dangle is that the king of Lancre is murdered by his brother. The king had a son and sympathetic guardsmen scooped up the infant and got him out of the castle immediately after the king's demise. He's given to the witches who place him with a traveling theatre troupe. The boy grows up within the theatre. The duke, who murdered his brother, makes life hard for the witches and goes increasingly mad.

The story is built on Macbeth with bits of Shakespeare's lines wandering through the book, not quite lost, but not quite sure why they are here. "Is this a dagger I see before me?" and "Out out damned spot!" make appearances and the duke's madness owes its origins to Lady Macbeth's madness. If you know Macbeth, you'll laugh at how that play weaves its way through the chapters.

What I liked best, was the discussion of the theatre versus magic. I think this quote sums things up nicely. The theatre troupe is called to Lancre to stage a play where the king who died is portrayed as horrible and the duke is portrayed as nobel. (You'll recognize that trope from Hamlet.) The witches are increasingly accosted as evil in the kingdom where they live and have lived all their lives. They lead respectable lives and people depended upon them, but the duke feels they know too much and he needs to destroy them. "Double, double, toil and trouble" shows up too.

The witches attend the premier performance of this play where the language of the theatre will be used to rewrite history.

"Granny subsided into unaccustomed, troubled silence, and tried to listen to the prologue. The theater worried her. It had a magic of its own, one that didn't belong to her, one that wasn't in her control. It changed the world, and said things were otherwise than they were. And it was worse than that. It was magic that didn't belong to magical people. It was commanded by ordinary people, who didn't know the rules. They altered the world because it sounded better."

I never looked at the theatre in that way before. I've read this book previously, but I didn't remember much of the story. I came into the book expecting to dislike Granny and felt, with this paragraph, a kind of sadness for her. This isn't what she's used to and it really bothered her.

And yet, there is a magic in the theatre. A well-written, well-staged play is like bottled magic. It transports you to a different view of a story. Pulitzer Prize winning plays get that recognition because they envelope you and have you see things just a bit differently. Even something as silly as "Spamalot" has a wonderful kind of magic that helps you forget your cares for 3 hours. Best of all, that magic belongs to us and we can all see it, feel it, touch it.

Things work out in the end, although there is some question about the new king of Lancre. I'm hoping that gets resolved down the road. Now, it's on to new people in a different section of Discworld. I'm a third of the way into book #7.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper



It's time to get the Fantasia poster framed for my office wall. It started with a black poster frame.

The frame came apart very easily, even though there is printing on the instructions not to remove the plastic "glass" part from the frame. It's just glued in in strategic spots around the frame so it didn't require much muscle to pop it out.

Since the frame was black and I needed red, I had to consider how to change that. If I wanted to custom frame the poster, with costs upwards of $250, I could get a red frame. I just want to spend $20. Black seems to be your only choice, unless you take your problem to an art supply store.

ViolÄ. Originally, I expected to have to buy a tube of red acrylic paint and a brush and then spend hours meticulously brushing paint across a frame. It would require quite a bit because there would be, inevitably, brush strokes to hide and I couldn't be completely certain the paint would adhere. I put the problem to my local Dick Blick art supply store and he suggested red spray paint. I could get exactly the color I wanted and other than needing to not do this all in one shot because, you know, paint fumes, this particular paint would be perfect. This brand is made for spray painting on anything, from plastic poster frames to brick, concrete and steel. It's the preferred spray paint of outdoor artists. And here I thought they just went to the hardware store and bought a can of Rust-o-leum. It was $6 for this.

The hard part was going to be the actual spraying. If it was spring, summer or fall, I could take the frame out to the back yard, spray it and let it dry and air outside. Since it was February and I wanted this done, I needed to come up with some way to do it without making myself sick.

Step 1 was commandeering some cardboard from the office.

We have a TV in the office for training videos and this was the box in which it came. I pulled it apart and took it to the basement. 

The frame fit nicely inside this "L" shaped box. I wouldn't be spraying the whole thing at once. 

Every time I went into the basement to do a load of laundry, I worked a bit more on the frame. First one side was painted, and then the other. 

I had to make sure the inside of the frame and then the outside were painted. The box worked like a charm. The biggest problem was the smell. If ever I needed an example of how scents travel it was this. I'd do a section of the frame and let that dry. Then the heat would kick in and I'd smell the toluene or whatever it is in the can, in the home office. It had been sucked into the air vents and sent around the house. After a couple tries, I learned, very quickly, that I could only do one side of the frame at a time. This would lengthen the time it took to get it done, but I wouldn't be coughing for a couple hours later due to the smell. 

It came out very nice. 

Now to see how it looks assembled. 

It's perfect. I matched the red with the color of the words. It's at the office, but not hung. I need to get more of those instant hanger things that don't damage your walls. I'm happy. It did use about 3/4ths of the can of spray paint to do this, owing to all the sides in a frame. That's fine. Realistically, what am I going to do with a can of red spray paint? I did think, since this is made to be used on any surface, I could use it up on the deck come spring, maybe paint the bottom lattice part. I just don't want a partially empty can of paint in the basement for the next 15 years. 

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


I Win Christmas - Part 2


Yes, it's a garden gnome.

Yes, it's an Iowa Hawkeyes garden gnome.

My sister got this from me for Christmas. It wasn't very tall, about 18 inches or so. I thought it would be heavy, but it was a resin material so it was fairly lightweight. The nearly hurricane-force winds Chicagoland had yesterday would have turned this into a weapon, launching it around the neighborhood, if I'd had one in my yard. I think, due to his diminutive stature, he's best off to the side of the deck or next to some potted flowers. He doesn't stand out very well.

My sister put him on the mantel above her fireplace. Perfect spot.

I warned her there was a box coming. I warned her it would probably make her laugh. He came sandwiched between two pieces of styrofoam so I wrapped the styrofoam and stuck him back in his box.

I think I need one.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Tuesday, February 16, 2016


One of the few souvenirs from Disneyland I allowed myself was this antenna topper.

I'm thrilled with it. it matches my personality and really, who wouldn't want Jack Skellington, with a smirk, stuck on your antenna?

I'm going through my Flickr photos and here is Ms. Green, the antenna topper Jack replaced because she was stolen. I'd had her pop off my antenna a few times and she was more than a little worse for wear by the time someone purloined her.

I really like her. Jack's fantastic, but he's not green or chocolate. 

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


A Wee Touch o' Sadness

I was going through my photos on Flickr today, as I ate my lunch, trying to put a bit more organization to them. I still have a ways to go to get through some 6,000 photos taken since 2009, but I made a bit of progress. I stumbled across this photo.

Oh man. I remember this event. I went to the store and bought these beers, and a few others not shown, all of them of Scottish origin. Belhaven was, at the time, my favorite, but I'm thinking I wound up liking the Old Engine Oil best. I found the blog post which used this photo but it doesn't say how I liked Dark Island. I don't remember. Perhaps worst of all, I don't remember how any of these tasted.

Now, mind you, life changes on you and what you once took for granted can be gone quickly. With rheumatoid arthritis drugs in my body, my liver cannot handle extra things like alcohol. I will, on extremely rare occasions, drink a teaspoon of something, but when the choice is RA drugs or a damaged liver, I'm going to choose the drugs.

Still, I'm feeling nostalgic for the time I could look in the fridge and find a wide variety of Scottish beer. In 2012, there were times I'd be out for dinner and feel so awful about not being able to share a drink with friends. In 2016, I don't think twice about it. I've given away almost all the alcohol that was in my house. I have some unopened bottles of things in the basement. They are going this year. It's all about your perspective. Making this choice was easy for me, if the implementation was a bit hard. The photo represents a time in my life that was different. I'm happy with where things are now.

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer



Technically, my trip to Disneyland was just outside the Halloween season. I was looking for souvenirs; lights, lawn decor, etc; to give to Carole and Larry for Christmas, but Liz said it's all gone overnight between October 31st and November 1st. You really have to come during October to see any of that. I admit to being skeptical. I can find Halloween decorating items now, if I look for them. Why shouldn't Disney be any different?

I should not be skeptical of what Liz says. There were no items around. Even in the area around the Haunted Mansion, there was nothing. It was all Christmas-themed by the time we got there, one week later. The Haunted Mansion, on the other hand, was still wearing Halloween finery.

It was kind of a mishmash of seasons. There's the distinctly Halloween of pumpkins, but there's also garlands representative of Christmas.

As you got closer, you realized this was a "Nightmare Before Christmas" decorating style.

Liz said the mansion, with its hugely popular ride, goes "Nightmare" in October and stays that way through Christmas.

Jack Skellington is everywhere. At night, I wanted to get the full effect of the lighting, but this is the best exterior photo of him I could get.

And, the decorations didn't turn out very clear after the sun went down. This wreathing and garland arrangement on the side of the front porch came out well, but other photos didn't. You need to be able to stand still for night shots, and, let's face it, Disney is about shuttling as many people as possible through their rides. You might stand still but your party will head off without you.

Long exposure photos, even if they depict something wonderful done with lights, just aren't what standing in line is supposed to do.

Now I wonder what the building looks like without all the decorations. /sigh They keep you wanting to come back, don't they?

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


Monday, February 15, 2016

Beat it With a Stick!

I spent the weekend cleaning. I clean a bit every day, but this was a weekend to deep clean. It was in the negative temperatures, with wind chill, and, on Sunday, we got 3 inches of snow. I wasn't going anywhere and there has been a lot of "crunchiness" to the floor. The litter box area was thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed, with new litter and a new litter box. One of our usual boxes was taken to the basement to be scrubbed. Pilchard has a tendency to register displeasure with anything by peeing outside of or just on the edge of a box. There has been a lot of that since my California vacation. I've scrubbed the box area, changed the litter and she still seemed to be peeved.

I don't know what triggered the thought but it occurred to me that I hadn't rotated out the actual boxes and scrubbed them. There was an old one in the basement that I'd forgotten about. I used to be really good about this, rotating a completely cleaned box out once a month but had not done this all last year.I couldn't smell anything, but I don't have a cat's sensitive nose. It was time to get back into thorough cleaning. The old box went downstairs to be soaked. I put it in the wash tubs with some Dawn dish soap (Is there anything this soap doesn't do?) and as the washer spins the water out of the laundry, it scrubs the box clean. I just follow up with some minor washing.

Since swapping out one of the boxes, there hasn't been an on-purpose mistake outside the box. I'll need to swap boxes over the next month so all three are clean heading into spring. You should have one box per cat and one spare.

After doing that, I set my sights on other rooms. The weekly sweeping just didn't seem to be getting all the winter grit so I gave the mop a good shake and started with my bedroom, working toward the front of the house. I have to take a break every so often and, when I sit in the office, I can see into the bedroom and partially under the bed. I thought I'd swept under there, but there was a shadow. When I took Mija to the vet, Pilchard had dashed under the bed and into the office closet to avoid what she was sure was her turn to ride in the carrier. She pulled a long string of a dust bunny from under the bed. So, I paid attention to that spot. But this shadow, which was NOT a cat, I checked, seemed to indicate something else was under the bed. Maybe it was a missing sock.

I got down on my knees, a daunting prospect because I never know how easy it will be to get up, and ran the mop under the bed. The first two passes yielded 3 cat toys and one sock. With the third pass, I aimed toward the head of the bed which is up against the wall. I swear I had swept that area but this came out.

It occupies the same amount of space Mija does, although it is not sentient nor does it have her mass. I think what happened is that my previous passes just shoved amounts of dust and fur and hair and whatever else goes into dust bunnies, up against one of the bed's legs. I was scraping off the mop what I had swept from under the bed. The angle I used on Saturday's pass pulled all this out.

I'm not really grossed out by this. Fascinated is more the correct term. There's very little grit in this. When I dusted it up to toss into the garbage, the dirt left was a couple of teaspoons and that was more loose litter, which I kind of expect.

One of my friends, upon seeing the photo, said I should give it a name and suggested "Charlie"; not sure why but there it is. No, I am not naming my dust bunnies. Come spring, when I move furniture for spring cleaning, I wonder how big some of those dust bunnies will be. Will I have a whole family? I read somewhere that birds like to have you toss this kind of dust outside in the spring because they use it for nesting. Sorry chickadees. This is going away.

Beverage:  Water


Not On My Watch!

For my birthday, my best friend, Patt, sent me packets of the best instant hot cocoa on the planet. Seriously. This cocoa is incredibly good. Years and years and years ago (it seems, and then, didn't she just graduate? Time is fluid.), when Carole was in marching band in high school, to raise money, the band did Market Day fundraising. They bought food wholesale and you purchased this food in bulk. We used to get a lot of meat through them because things like chicken breasts and hamburger patties were individually sealed.

One of the things they sold, from November through March, was a box of Land O'Lakes hot cocoa. There were 6 different flavors in a box. Oh my! We would wind up buying 2 boxes per month and storing them because cold winter months require good hot cocoa to survive. I'm torn about which flavor was my favorite. This chocolate cinnamon was right up there along with their white cocoa and chocolate raspberry. Patt's cocoa didn't last very long.

Fast forward to Christmas and there are three packages of the same size in the box of Christmas gifts sent from Carole and Larry. I opened one and knew exactly what the other two would be.

Look at this! These are store display boxes of cocoa. You tear off the one side and the cocoa is easy access.

There are a dozen packages in each box. That's 36 packages of cocoa. I was sort of parceling them out because I didn't have any other cocoa, not even the mix in milk kind. I figured, the next trip to the grocery, I could get the Stephen's instant cocoa they have, assuming they had it. I've gone multiple trips without seeing it.

I mentioned to my friend, Terry, that I was low on cocoa. Christmas 2014, she sent me some Williams-Sonoma mix in milk cocoa and I've been working through that. The container was down to a half a mug's worth of chocolate. It's shaved and it actually goes very nicely on ice cream. The first week of January, I get a box. Inside is a note. "I read in your letter that you were nearly out of cocoa. That is not happening on my watch!"

The old container is to the left. In the middle are vanilla-tinged marshmallows. They are nice, but I tend to drink my cocoa without adornment.

I do, however, add more than the "recommended" amount of cocoa to a mug. It can sometimes be akin to drinking the syrup out of a can of Hershey's, for those of you who remember that.

Winter is saved. I just need to make this last until...oh...May, perhaps. The thing about Terry's cocoa is that it has to be mixed in milk. This is a great way to get calcium, at least that's what I tell myself when I'm on my third cup.

Beverage:  Water (I'm not bringing my cocoa to work. I don't want to share.)


Friday, February 12, 2016

Helping the Memory

It's hard, sometimes, not to feel my age. This is particularly true when the morning comes and I'm running late and I get half-way to the office and realize I don't have my meds with me. "I'll just take them when I get home," I think. More often than not, that doesn't happen. My inability to remember something so basic and so important can open the door to that little mocking voice we all have. "Boy are you OLD," it can say. "You can't remember something that important." And that's a spiral those of us who have existed with depression know all too well. That voice can be very, very hard to silence. When your health depends upon a regimen of pills and you forget them, the creaks and aches give that voice ammunition.

With a vacation away from the familiarity of my kitchen, where bottles are neatly stacked in the order in which I usually take them, I felt a slight fear. I really did not want to pack all the bottles of things I take. While it's not a pharmacy, it's more than two. The more I thought about this, the more anxious I became about forgetting to take something in the excitement of the vacation. In a flash of enlightenment, I thought about a pill box.

I put morning pills in the blue side and evening pills in the purple side. It worked like a charm. What day is it? Friday. Open that container. No bottles and the compartments snapped tight. I took everything when I had to take it and didn't forget anything. When I came home, I stuck this in the cupboard in the bathroom. It served its purpose and, it will travel with me whenever I go out of town, even if it's an overnight. No more lugging bottles.

Lately, I've been struggling with the winter blahs. It's manifested itself in forgetting to take my meds. I get up late and the dash out the door to get to work on time causes me to skip doses. Then I get down on myself. At the end of last month, I remembered this.

There were conversations with myself. I'm getting old if I admit that I can't remember to take my meds. That nagging voice started to overrule the gentle voice that reminded me why I take this stuff. But I went 4 days without taking my meds and I started to feel it. I need help to remind me. Out came the pill box.

So, for the last 2 weeks, I've carefully dropped the morning's pills into the blue side. I don't have much trouble with evening pills. They are taken on an "as needed" basis and I keep the bottles by the computer, where I tend to wind up at some point at the end of a day. I have the computer set up to send me an alert, too, when it's time to take the evening pills. The big issue is the morning doses. I pop open the top, put the pills in an empty bottle and bring the bottle with me to the office. I've been cutting time close lately so Dunkin' has been breakfast of late, something I need to cut back on. Chocolate donuts, while fun to eat, shouldn't be eaten daily. I don't close the top on the compartment until it's filled again.

I'm finding this method is helping me remember. I don't think there is anything wrong with my memory. I just let the negative voice drown out the positive voice. It's also winter and the cold and dark can be oppressive, sapping what little self-caring energy you have. I felt my internal 'ship', if you will, had tilted and was taking on water. This small step will right that ship and get me back on track. It's like the cleaning I've been doing after reading the tidying up book. Things have to be done in small steps. I can do this in small steps.

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


Scattered for Spring

I try, very hard, not to disturb the milkweed plants which sprout around the yard. This year, I was rewarded by the sight of 4 monarchs. It could have been the two I originally saw back in August, but I tell myself it was four separate butterflies. I would really like to enlarge that area with the rudbeckia and daisies but I need to hire someone to do that. My days of digging up my yard are limited.

Anyway, the second best thing about milkweed plants is when the seed pods open in the late fall or early winter.

The desiccated plants are easy to snap off and the pods pop open with a satisfying 'pook'. It doesn't take much to knock the main stem down and then the seeds are off with the wind.

The flight of the seeds is so pretty. A big gust can fill the air with dainty white tendrils. I remember, as a child, popping open the pods and throwing the seeds into the wind. There is something magical about their dance. On this date, the pods had opened and were just hanging around. There was no wind to toss them into the air and carry them around the neighborhood. I'm fairly certain my neighbors don't have the same admiration for milkweed that I do and consider it a nuisance.

Milkweed needs disturbed ground to settle and sprout but need nothing after that. I'm going to have a lot of the trash trees removed from the back and side yards this spring and part of that is to grind out any stumps to make sure the tree doesn't come back. That's 'disturbing' the ground for sure. There are a couple of places I think would look good planted with flowers, perennials, mostly, which will include more prairie plants. Common milkweed fits that description.

I weighed the removal of these volunteer trees and with the detritus of the winter with all the birds which seem to be in my yard now. The birds will hang around and I think, with more flowers to attract bees and butterflies, the overall attractiveness of my yard will remain high. That's the ultimate goal here. Dancing milkweeds and dancing butterflies and dancing birds.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


Thursday, February 11, 2016

GO [insert invective of your choice] AWAY

These. Oh lord almighty. These.

In case you don't have these and have no idea why I'm up in arms over something squashable, this is a stinkbug; a brown marmorated stink bug, to be precise; halyomorpha halys. They are native to China but, as with a lot of nuisance insects, were accidentally introduced to Pennsylvania in the late 1990s. They are considered a noxious pest and damage fruits and vegetables.

In late fall, they will enter homes to hibernate. Because they are around half an inch long, any kind of gap will allow them entry. They overwinter and come out in the spring, when air temperatures reach a consistent 60 degrees during the day. The interior warmth of a home, however, will cause them to come out during the winter. They are attracted to lights and will fly around a ceiling light, for instance, colliding with it. It's fairly easy to swat them out of the air.

Their common name, "stink bug", is from the pungent odor produced when the insects are mating or are crushed. Some people consider it freshly crushed coriander. Some people, myself included, think it just stinks.

I generally try to pick them up in a tissue, wrap it into a tight ball and flush. If we were having a normal winter, where the highs were in the upper 30's, I wouldn't see them all winter. As it is, we've had 40's, 50's and close to 60's this winter. Couple those temperatures, with the warmth from the inside of my house and I have seen close to two dozen of these pests this winter. It's beyond aggravating to be reading in the evening and have one drop out of the air onto your book page. I was doing dishes last night and one had found its way under the dish drainer. I'm going to have to take the drainer apart, pick it out and toss it away. If I find them in the kitchen, I give them a heave ho out the door."Freeze!" I usually say. They are probably finding some way back into the crevasses of the house, but, for a moment, I feel good about inflicting death on a noxious creature.

I generally believe that everything which evolved on the planet has a checks and balances and has, in some way, a good reason for existing. Mosquitoes, for all the disease they bring, are, in larval stage, fish food. Controls which involve putting a thin film of oil on top of a pond, for instance, which suffocates the mosquito larva, also kill fish. Bats love fully grown mosquitoes. There needs to be a balance in how many we preserve when they are food for other creatures.

But, I fail to see what could find food in stink bugs. I'll also add June bugs to that short list. June bug larva get dug up by skunks and that's a nuisance of itself. I can always tell when there's been a skunk through my yard by the small circular holes in the grass where a bug was found.

So, die stink bugs, die. The girls will watch them circle a light but aren't inclined to go after them to kill them. The only good thing about these is that killing one helps with eye hand coordination between a fly swatter and a flying insect.

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


Do You See It?

I got the hairs cut on Monday. The bangs had grown enough they were hanging in my face, covering half of my eyes. When I made the decision to get the cut, I was just going to get the bangs done, but the rest of the hair started to bug me, so I had her cut everything.

I feel like a Q-Tip. She said my hair had grown 2 inches from the last cut, which had been right after Thanksgiving. I don't doubt that, but she took more than 2 inches off. It's a bit short for my overall comfort but it's just hair. It will grow out. As she was cutting my hair she said, "I like the lavender color you added. Since you just get a cut here, did you go some place or add it yourself?" I stared at her. I have not colored my hair in nearly 6 years. In fact, here is the blog post from when I decided to stop coloring my hair. Her comment caught me off guard.

"I don't color my hair," I replied.
"Oh," she said. "Interesting. There's a section here that's light purple." She pointed to a section on the back left side of my head. Honestly, I didn't see anything and I kind of felt the fluorescent lights of the shop were playing tricks on her eyes.
Later, however, as she was making sure everything was even, I saw it. It's a small section, but it is a light lavender. How the heck...?

Do you see it? It's a thin stripe toward the back of my head as well as some undertones near the ears. There is also, in this photo, a light yellow stripe. That could be just sunlight. Gray hair has a tendency to go "brassy", it's called; take on yellow overtones. I have noticed that and it makes the hair look dirty, even when its not. I use a shampoo formulated for gray hair which removes this yellow tint and leaves just the gray visible.

I like my gray hair. There are some days when I think, "I should dye it back to my original brown color", but I remember how long it took to grow out and how bad it looked at the end. I was rather happy when it had grown out enough that all the faded brown could be cut off. At this point, I think dying it brown would look fake.

The gray shampoo is a bright royal purple. The gray conditioner is a light lavender. You aren't to use this but once a week because it will dye your hair purple. I only use it when I have to be somewhere and feel there's too much yellow in my hair. I had been out and about with Pam last Saturday, but had used regular shampoo. Plus, I don't wash my hair every day. Increasingly, the science is saying a break from washing is good. I'm in an every other day routine unless I need to make sure it looks good. And then, if I'm not going somewhere over a weekend, I'll just wet it down and leave it, so I can go a Friday morning to Sunday evening without the application of shampoo. That sort of rules out having the shampoo be the culprit in the dye job.

Here it is this morning, in the office.

The lavender color is easier to see. I'm at a loss for how it got there. I didn't use my gray shampoo over the weekend. I didn't think the hair needed it. But that's purple. One of my Internet friends, who changes her color about every 6 weeks, thinks the hair has been absorbing the purple dye for some time. It was hidden in my shaggy growing out cut of before. It will go away, gradually, unless I continue to use the purple shampoo on a weekly basis. In which case, it could get more pronounced. As I have a great body of inspections upcoming, I don't want to be too distinctive.

I kind of like it, now that I see it. It's funky and I'm ready for some funky in my life. I need new glasses, too. No, I'm not getting purple frames.

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book #5

Finished book #5 on Sunday evening. I'm taking a bit of a break to get a counted cross-stitch project at least started. I have to finish it by the first week in May so it gets framed in time to be given away at the end of June. If I was doing the "read one book a month" idea, I'd be up to May. I've come home from work, sat down in the recliner to get a lap cat and thought, "I could start book 6", but I know I'd dive headlong into the book to the detriment of the cross-stitch and I need to, at the very least, get it started.

This book starts the rip-roaring writing style of many of Pratchett's Discworld books. It starts off a bit disjointed, but, by about page 30, you're riding the crest of a magical wave that just doesn't stop until page 220. There is more humor in this book; sentences which leave you chuckling. But the wry commentary on life isn't here. Pratchett doesn't seem to be lampooning life so much as simply writing a good story. And what a story it is.

Rincewind is the main character. Ah yes, Rincewind, the protagonist of the first two books. There are times during this when I wanted to shake Pratchett. I couldn't decide what he was trying to say with the character. Rincewind is not a good wizard. It's said ad nauseum. I get it. I get it. Rincewind has been told, repeatedly, he's awful. He can't do magic. He would just like to live quietly in the library. Yet, life seems to have decided he's going to save the world. I was frustrated with all the pages spent driving home how bad a wizard Rincewind is and how he kept trying to get away from some destiny he didn't want. How that story plays out is very good. The conclusion of Rincewind's story feels right, even if how it got there is a bit rough.

My current all-time best Pratchett quote is found here, on page 5 in my copy. "'...what is it in this world that makes living worthwhile?' Death thought about it. 'CATS,' he said eventually. 'CATS ARE NICE.'" If there is a theme, it would be the attempt to discover what makes living worthwhile. The characters of the book; Rincewind, Coin, Conine, Nijel, the Librarian, Creosote; do grow as the book progresses relative to the characters which surround them. The Librarian seems to be the most prescient of all of them, quite interesting for an orangutang, but even he has to figure some things out and decide what is important. The characters are well-defined and it's easy to root for them.

This theme of finding what makes life worth living is carried over from "Mort", book #4. Rincewind is in book #4, although he's a minor character. The continuity of character is one of the reasons Discworld is beloved. You get to see how characters, minor names in some books, get their own stories, grow and change, as the series took form.

I also like the description of Unseen University's library. It's clear Pratchett loved libraries and the description of this one is wonderful. I'd love to be lost in its stacks. I like how the books are portrayed as sentient. Who hasn't walked into a library or a bookstore and felt the books calling to you. I don't remember if there are more stories involving the library. I hope so. There's a lot to talk about in a library full of magic.

This book would stand on its own. You wouldn't have to read any of the books in front of it to get a lot out of it. It's still good to have read the first two in the series so when Rincewind's story is tied up and delivered, you have a sense of who he is.

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


The Random View of Thursday at Disneyland

Here's a collection of photos from Thursday, November 5th. Let's start with the mountains.

This is the view from the Mickey ferris wheel. The real mountains are in the distance with the fake mountains from the Cars Land ride in the foreground. The fake mountains don't look all that out of place from the real ones due to the realism of the fake ones. I also like the clouds in the sky. Just needs a couple of vertical lines and you'd have a tic tac toe game in the sky.

How about a fountain?

This one is in Downtown Disney. It's a stylized flower. I like the undulating shapes and the gradation of color from center outward. There aren't a lot of fountains around. It wasn't until I was looking through my photos that I realized this isn't a part of the decoration in either park. Fountains take space and they tend to break up a path. Disney is about funneling large amounts of people from one point to another. A fountain is just in the way. Oh you could tuck it off the the side. This one was alongside a thoroughfare, but that seems to defeat the purpose of a fountain as a focal point. This one is quite pretty. The color change was achieved with small tiles. Wonder how long it took people to apply the tiles?

Speaking of tiling, here is the floor in the pseudo French Quarter of Disneyland.

Attention to design is paramount at Disney. Liz pointed out, on many occasions, where you could find the outline of Mickey in the architecture and design of both California Adventure and Disneyland. While Mickey's not here, on the floor of the Pandora Jewelers, I like the use of tile to create a mosaic which fit with the surroundings. I see things like this and I remember working in mosaics in an art class in college. We worked with heavy paper and the section on mosaics was to help us understand color. If I wasn't so busy with other craft projects...

Color and design on the ground is not limited to mosaics. Witness what they did with colored cement.

"Cement" is a bit of a misnomer for this ground covering. It's an aggregate which can be tinted in a large number of colors. I've seen this in a lot of places. One of the problems with it in cold climates is that the colors are usually separated by thin pieces of metal. The surface is sealed so you never feel the change from one piece to another. But, the ground freezes in the upper Midwest, so spring heave is a big concern. I've had to inspect designs such as these and you find all sorts of cracks at corners and uneven heave can produce a large crack in, say, the middle of one of the yellow triangles. Ground issues are probably not a problem in Southern California, so they are free to be inventive with the design and color. It was quite impressive.

I would do this in a heartbeat if I could figure out how.

This was outside the Starbucks where we had breakfast. It's a mesh in which a variety of plants have been planted in what appeared to be a peat-like potting soil. This would be a wonderful way to shade a patio. I could see it planted with flowering plants to provide color. It appeared to have a design to the plantings but was in the midst of a change of seasons so some plants were new and not completely filled out. I also loved that, unlike Disneyland, there were birds nesting in the mesh. That, alone, appealed to me. I'm all about providing habitat for nesting birds. I'm sure, if I looked, there are plans online for something like this. You'd need it to be fairly high to block out the sun, but you could make it merely 6-7 feet tall to act as a screen.

Could it get any better than this?

Part of the design of California Adventure is the recreation of an early American amusement park. Witness the roller coaster and the ferris wheel. LOOK! SWINGS! Liz and I walked toward the ferris wheel and she pointed out this ride. I love this ride! I am at the edge of fitting into the chairs but it was an absolute hoot. I have so many, many warm memories of county fairs with a swing ride. I wouldn't go up in a ferris wheel, but I'll let a ride fling me almost sideways with nothing but a chain to hold me to the top. You are never too old to have your feet dangling in front of you, the wind in your face, giggling for all your worth, while your 9 year-old self comes bubbling to the top for a ride. That's Disneyland, for you. It's okay to be on the backside of your middle ages yet riding swing rides.

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thursday Disneyland

Going back to all the photos I wanted to post and comment on but never had the chance to until now. If you're bored with this trip, skip this and a few more upcoming. This is a review of Thursday, November 5th. It was a sparkling morning.

Because of the lingering drought, this is usually how mornings start, I'm given to understand. For a Midwesterner who does not anticipate this kind of sunshine in November, when it can be more cloudy than sunny, it was exciting. Liz and I walked the equivalent of 6 blocks north to the park. We got there, on purpose, with time to spare, to have a quick breakfast and then to wait.

It really didn't seem real until we went through security and into this plaza where all the light posts were festooned with the celebratory 60th Anniversary banners. Oh that's right! Disneyland is celebrating its 60th year in operation. Liz had mentioned this and said there would be all sorts of fun stuff going on. It did not hit me until I was standing in that square and there were these banners.

Liz handed me my ticket. Wow. She was ever so patient and amused at my slack-jawed yokel-ness amazement at where I was. When we decided to do this and I made the decision to pay for 2 days of Disney, it was a long ways off. Liz, the admitted Disney "freak", kept getting more and more excited to show us the parks she loves. It was exciting, but, jeeze, I need a new washer and then the car dies and any celebration is simply that I can pay all my bills at the end of the month. But then, she hands me this small piece of paper and  I walk into the plaza between Disneyland and California Adventure and, my mouth drops open. I really am here.

I was given the option of going to California Adventure or Disneyland first. I thought about it and decided on California Adventure as Disneyland would be quasi-familiar due to my visits to Walt Disney World. I handed the pass to the gentleman at the gate. "Welcome Princess," he said. I laughed and said, "No one has ever called me a princess. I should get that in writing." He pulled out his marker and wrote on the back of my pass. There. "Proof", such as it is, that I am a 'princess'. Yeah, tell that to the cats.

We headed into the park. Of course, I had to take a photo of the map.

It is quite easy to get completely turned around. That is probably by design. The longer you are in the park, the more chance the souvenir shops can part you from your money. North is at the bottom of the map. The ferris wheel, which I've already blogged about, is at the top of the map. Part of my job is to know which way I am facing when I discuss what I see on a building's walls. I abandoned my kind of meager sense of direction and just surrendered to the fun. This is supposed to be part of "the happiest place on earth". I should enjoy the sensation.

We walked about the park. Around every bend are the unusual and photogenic. Disney, of course, plans for this, although there aren't a lot of the obtrusive "Kodak Photo Spot" signs I remember from Disney World.

This is hilarious. All the eateries are in cone-shaped buildings in Cars Land.

The obligatory humorous photo conveniently provided by the park and, of course, you have to do it.

Oh my gosh! Real birds! You don't expect to see those. You kind of think, because Disney is a leader in animatronics, that any animals you see are going to be of the mechanical kind. I had to take a photo of real, live, seagulls. Here's another spot where there were real birds.

These are the fake mountains in Cars Land, in the ride area. It's hard to see in the small photo, but there are seagulls perched on the top of this hill. I thought, "Gee, they do think of everything" when I saw it and then a couple of them flew off.

We didn't see many birds or chipmunks or squirrels in the park, in spite of the huge amount of food around. Even though there is an army of people with brooms and small waste cans, food is everywhere. Yet, those scavengers I'm so used to at other large venues where nowhere to be seen. I wonder how much of that is due to the diligence of park personnel in keeping the place clean and how much is due to the presence of feral cats. If you didn't know about the feral cats making their homes in Disneyland, here's the link to an article about them. I have noticed an uptick in wildlife in my backyard now that I don't have outdoor cats roaming about the yard.

At noon, we went across the plaza to Disneyland. Of course, this is the first thing you see when you walk in.

I didn't get to ride the train. Guess I'll have to come back.

So I wonder if this is the most photographed human sculpture in the world. That's Sleeping Beauty's castle in the background. Cinderella's castle is at Disney World. This one isn't as high and it's a different coloration. Lots of people were trying to get just the right photo of the statue with the castle in the background. Everyone was respectful and waited their turn, even offering to take photos with other people's cameras so they could be in the photo.

We didn't hang around much because we were coming back for an extended period on Sunday. Disneyland feels more like a park should. You're entering from the south and working north instead of the other way around. I don't know if situating your amusement park along cardinal directions has anything to do with attendance, but Disneyland felt more comfortable. That could also be the problem of California Adventure trying to figure out what it is. It's always been something of a step-child to Disneyland. There aren't as many rides and it's more heavily shop-based than Disneyland. It's supposed to be a Disney-fied version of the Anaheim Walt came to in 1920. It's fun, but if you're a tourist, you gravitate to Disneyland. That's only natural.

We left at 3:30 and walked back to the hotel. I had a blister on my right foot; on the ball of the foot below the middle toe. It made walking painful. We met up with Ashley, who had arrived at 3, and headed over to the Convention Center.

Again, I felt that awe at being in a place I'd spent 6 months preparing for. There were people everywhere, although no one in costume, yet. We walked in and got in line for our convention badges. The line moved swiftly and I think we had everything in 15 minutes. There is no merit to showing up early. You can't do anything other than stand in line for hours to buy things from the Blizzard store. Ashley and I went to the store on Saturday morning and spent 30 minutes total, making purchases. If I ever do this again, that's when I'm going, first thing on a Saturday morning.

From here, there was a "party" in the Hilton which wasn't real spectacular. There was an art exhibit and, later, meet and greets with people from WOW-themed web sites. But we weren't really interested in them so we met up with Amy and her hubby and went to dinner. Friday would be the big day.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Next Christmas

If you're on the Christmas card list, you got a card with a photo from my Disneyland trip. It was one of my goals to get some kind of photo from either BlizzCon or Disneyland to make personalized cards. When Liz said you could meet Tigger, assuming he was out, well, that's who I wanted to have my photo taken with. We wound up waiting 20 minutes but it was worth it. Using my cell phone and my camera, Liz took quite a few photos.

The cell phone camera has a darker color than the digital camera. These were good but when I compared them to the ones on the digital camera, I felt the color was better on the camera. 

I went with the last one in the series. The cell phone seemed to latch onto the dark of the area and enhance it. The background got lost in the shade. I liked the color and our positioning of the bottom photo. What you can't see is that my tee shirt had Tigger on it. He's always been my favorite Disney-fied character so it was exciting to get a photo. Pooh turned out to be just around the corner in his photo spot. It was funny to see Tigger's line be twice as long as Pooh's. 

Making my own cards was a lot of fun. There is free software with the new printer so it was reasonably easy to print what I wanted. It has me looking ahead to this Christmas. What do I want to do for cards? I have a lot of regular cards I've accumulated over the years which would cover my needs. I wouldn't have to buy any this winter. And then, it snows. 

There is a pine tree outside my office window. I watch squirrels go up and down, chasing each other. I left one noon to get lunch after a morning of wet snowfall. I was greeted with these images. 

There are large pine cones on this tree. I'm not up on my identification of pines so I don't know what kind this is, but they make for great photos. 

I particularly like this photo below. 

If I was going to do a personalize card this Christmas, there is great potential in this photo. I don't spend a lot of time composing my photos. I'm very much a point and shoot person. Photos like this tend to be a happy accident. 

So, I will keep this in mind for the winter. Of course, there are 10 months between now and when I need to have cards. We'll see what other photos present themselves as card potential. 

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea